Yogyakarta Indonesia | 14 Not To Be Missed Things To Do
Yogyakarta or Jogja is the art and heritage city of the Special Region of Yogyakarta province in south Java. The city is a popular destination with locals and is increasingly getting known with foreigners since it is also not far from East Java’s most popular landmarks.
Yogyakarta city is bustling with activities and attractions such as historical buildings, a vibrant shopping scene and a low key nightlife. Other attractions in the region include viewpoints, waterfalls, beaches, an ancient volcano and the famous Borobudur and Prambanan temples.
Since sightseeing is popular with locals most attractions tend to get overcrowded during the day (especially on weekends and festive days). Best time to visit the touristic hot spots is early morning.
Things To Do while in Yogyakarta
Taman Sari Water Castle
This royal garden and water castle is one of the city’s major attractions. For 15k IDR ($1) you will get a chance to experience one of Yogyakarta’s stunning historical sites which was a bathing and resting place of the sultan. Interestingly, this was also the place where the sultan entertained his mistresses.
A mix of Javanese and European architecture surrounds the 3 pools which were recently given a fresher look. Taman Sari is now surrounded by a cluster of houses which have formed a village within the grounds of the castle. Navigating through the small alleys of this village is like passing through a maze.
A mosque is also part of the castle complex which is next on the list. Being one of the city’s main attractions try getting here early morning to avoid the heat and crowd (opening hours 9:00 – 15:00).
Sumur Gumuling (Mosque)
On the way out from Taman Sari you may consider visiting Sumur Gumuling. Not as you would expect, this mosque is underground. From Taman Sari the route to the mosque is through a maze of narrow alleys and may be a bit tricky to locate. We followed a guided tour and had no problem but if here early morning you may need to ask some locals.
Entrance is through a tunnel which leads to the central area. Beautiful natural light from the open air ceiling flood the mosque. A circular structure is adorned by small arched doors and surrounds 4 sets of stairs. These stairs meet to form a dome and from here another flight lead to the top floor.
Capturing the mosque’s beautiful architecture from the top floor requires getting here early so as to avoid the crowd.
Marlioboro is bustling with things to see and do. Everyday locals, domestic tourists and foreigners flock to this street making it extremely busy.
A mall and shops selling just about anything line the street along with street vendors, street food and artists. This road is a never ending stream of cars, scooters, rickshaws and carriage horses. Although this is quite a chaotic part of Jogja, it really is an experience not to be missed. We usually came here after sunset when the day starts to cool off.
Kampung Code Riverside
Kampung Code is a village built along Kali Code river. In a way the village resembles the more popular Jodipan, the colourful village in Malang.
Colourful houses, brightly painted alleys and artistic murals give this village a distinctive touch. We had a delicious dish of bubur kacang from a street vendor at one of the small alleys. Bubur Kacang is a porridge made with beans, coconut milk and sugar.
The village is like one big family and everybody was welcoming and friendly. Along the way we experienced the day to day life of these villagers and came across kids playing and swimming in the river next to small fish farms, a lady preparing all sorts of traditional stews and dishes which later on she would sell in Malioboro street, a store selling fresh fried chicken.
Alun Alun Kidul
Alun Alun Kidul is a public square 1/2 an hour walk from Malioboro street. In the evening, the square is a popular spot for street food and taking a drive on a bright multi color neon lit peddle car.
At the centre of the piazza are two huge banyan trees which are popular for a local challenge. The challenge is to walk blindfolded and in a straight line between these trees and it is said that those who succeed will have their wishes granted.
Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This massive structure is built on 9 different levels. The top 3 levels are circular in shape and the rest are squarish. Borobudur was buried and covered in volcanic ash and vegetation for ages. You might want to visit the museum at Borobudur complex for an insight into the state of the temple when it was rediscovered after hundreds of years.
At sunrise top level offers a spectacular view of the sun rising from behind the many stupas which house a Buddha inside. This level gets a considerable amount of visitors even from early morning. While everyone is waiting for the sunrise go around the other side to get some photographs without the crowds. Also lower levels are basically empty at this time. Visitors crowd Borobudur during the day so best to visit early morning.
There are other interesting spots on these grounds beside the impressive temple. These include a large park, museums and places to eat or drink.
The temple is about 75 minute drive from Yogyakarta city and is open from 6:00 to 17:00. Sunrise or sunset tickets can also be purchased but come in at a higher price.
Prambanan is Indonesia’s largest Hindu temple complex and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main temple stands at 47 metres high and was originally surrounded by some 240 smaller temples. Today most of these are seen in remains and are presently being rebuilt.
The grounds of Prambanan are huge and close by are also Buddhist temples. A hop on train which only costs a small fee goes to some other interesting spots including the Buddhist temples.
The drive from Yogyakarta city to the temple is about 35 minutes long. Most visitors to the temple come after visiting Borobudur or for sunsets therefore mornings should be less busy.
Tips - Borobudur & Prambanan
- Buying a combo ticket for Borobudur and Prambanan costs 630k IDR (45$) per person (as at June 2019). The combo ticket is valid for 2 days but only if used the following day.
- A discount is provided if you show your student card.
- The sunrise and sunset Borobudur tickets are purchased through Manohara.
- Best to arrive at Borobudur as early as 6 am to enjoy the sunrise.
Nglanggeran Ancient Volcano
Mount Nglanggeran is an ‘ancient’ inactive volcano. At the top it is possible to camp and enjoy a beautiful sunrise over a spectacular view. Reaching Mount Nglanggeran requires an hour trek climbing through forestry, huge boulders and crevices in the large rocks. The peak is a stunning 360 view over lush greenery, rice fields and mountains. You will need to have an early to get here for sunrise as the ride from the city and trek combined can take around 2 ½ hours.
Hutan Pinus Pengger
Pinus Pengger is a nature park in the cooler mountains southeast of Yogyakarta city. Platforms and structures dot the amazing viewpoint which are perfect for taking pictures. One of the most popular structure is that in the form of a hand that seems to be hanging over the ridge of the mountain. From this viewpoint we saw a distant volcano. The park is scattered with small hobbit like houses made from wooden sticks and look like bird nests.
The entrance fee is 3k IDR ($0.20) per person and since we were at the park early morning we did not pay extra for photos at the different structures.
Sri Gethuk Waterfall
Multi leveled rice fields and lush greenery nestle this waterfall and river which has carved its way through the rocks. Sri Gethuk can be reached by a short walk through the park or a boat ride. Further along the park there are other waterfalls some accessible only by boat.
A pool below the fall overflows onto a small tiered cascade. The streams from the waterfall flow into the river which is also a swimming spot.
The entrance fee is 25k IDR (1.70$) per person.
Explore the maze of side streets
Getting a glimpse of the real Jogja entails venturing away from touristic spots. One option would be to just wander off along the intricate alleys and you’d likely get more in touch with the local culture. The small winding streets is where tradition along with art prevail and you never know what you may come across.
Not the usual white sand beach Parangtritis is a glittery black volcanic bay south of Yogyakarta. The beach is very popular with locals but isn’t good for swimming due to big waves and underwater currents.
Warungs and different kinds of stalls line the street along the bay. Horse rides, dirt bike and quad bike rentals and long walks along the beach are the main activities here. A 5 minute drive west of the bay is another interesting spot, Taman Gumuk Pasir. Gumuk Pasir is a large heart shaped garden of flowers. This small flower attraction is a creation of a local artist.
Kalibiru National Park
Kalibiru is a small theme park in the highlands southwest of Yogyakarta city. Inside the park and along the trees are unique photo spots such as platforms, bikes crossing from tree to tree and a glider hung between two other trees. Each of these photo spots has an additional fee. From the peak you can see mountains, a lake and distant small village.
For us, the highlight was getting to Kalibiru. Riding out of the city and further into the nature, the air is clean and fresh. The ride is stunning as is along rice fields and jungle through steep and winding roads.
If coming to the park with own transport be cautious as some roads are narrow, have pot holes and some parts are steep.
The entrance fee to the park is 10k IDR per person.
Shopping in Yogyakarta
Hartono is a big shopping mall 20 minutes drive from Yogyakarta city. The mall has a large selection of shops including Levis, H&M, Adidas (just to name a few). We liked the cool design and good price of a local brand ‘et cetera’.
Click on the button to the right to view the map larger and the list of attractions.
➳ Our Javanese experience was exceptional! Java has the friendliest locals, is cheap, has the most accessible active volcanoes and is home to the most beautiful waterfall, Tumpak Sewu. Therefore, we suggest to visit more of Java and include the following destinations in your Java itinerary.
Things To Do in Yogyakarta at night
Yogyakarta 3 Day Itinerary
Getting to Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta is connected by train, highway and has direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and Bali. Trains connect Yogyakarta to other major cities like Bandung and Surabaya. Night buses and buses are also an option of getting to Yogyakarta.
Which area to stay in Yogyakarta
Best areas to stay on a short trip to Yogyakarta would be either around Malioboro or Prawirotaman. Amenities such as restaurants, bars and shops will be all within walking distance in both these areas. Malioboro is the busy part of the city and has historic buildings and sites close. Prawirotaman seem targeted more towards the western tourist and you’ll have a street packed with restaurants, bars and other small shops.
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